This is fun

I\’ve got to do some financial forecasts.

I don\’t know how to use a spreadsheet program.

No, really, not a clue. Last one I used was Lotus 1.0 back in 1986. Obviously I\’ve not retained the info about how to create anything. I don\’t know how to enter figures, let alone get it to add them up. And as for more complex….

So, an interesting conundrum. Given that what I want to do (24 months, perhaps 10 or 15 revenue/cost items) is pretty simple, I have to decide. Is it easier to do it the old way, pen and paper, or should I learn how to use a spreadsheet?

I have to admit to tending towards pen and paper you know…..

31 thoughts on “This is fun”

  1. Trouble with paper is that you’re guaranteed to cock something up and have to start over.

    There’s a load of good excel tutorials on the interwebs; it’ll take ten minutes to add shit up. Hell, those tutorials have got me using pivot tables.

  2. It took me literally three years to make a recursive labour market model in Excel. Got there in the end, though.

  3. How long is it going to take to download the program, learn how to use it, sort out the bugs, lose the entire data input when there is a power cut, start over,….. against doing it in rough then making a final copy by hand? Are the people you’re going to show the financial forecast to people who will sneer at a hand-written job? Are you going to do more of these so that the time invested in wrestling the prog into submission pays off in the longer run? There are no solutions, only trade-offs.

  4. Using paper and pencil is sometimes good for mental excercise, but for any actual work, a spreadsheet will save so much effort (and errors) for anything involving more than half a dozen numbers, that there’s just no question about it. Learn to use it, even if you’ll smakc yourself in a few days just out of the frustration when you learn how much time you have wasted by not using a spreadsheet…

  5. You may not need the spreadsheet for this small exercise, but an investment in the skill would definitely be worthwhile.

    Excel has been on practically every workplace PC for the last 20 years and it can bring immense benefit to anyone who works with any kind of numbers. I find it baffling that so few folks actually know how to use it to any extent.

  6. Luke: if TW is bad at sums, how has he lasted this long without a spreadsheet?

    Guardianistas no doubt have full access to Excel and yet they *still* screw up their figures.

  7. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day. So yes, use the spreadsheet. Unless you haven’t got time to learn something.

  8. Spreadsheet for sure. In your line of business you’ll find lots of things you can do usefully with it that you’re either not doing, or doing messily.

    Excel if you can afford or already have it; otherwise OpenOffice, which has a spreadsheet called Calc & is free. You just go to the OO site & download it.

    You might learn best by messing about – preferably take a copy of someone else’s spreadsheet and play with it. A few hours will get you reasonably competent.

    One important caveat: after you’ve built a spreadsheet, sit back, glass of tipple in hand, and ask yourself if you believe the result. Because simple errors can have nasty compounding effects.

  9. Any local teenage boy will help you fill in the spreadsheet if you have the data and a rough idea about how to forecast. Damn sight cheaper than hiring an accountant and after a week or two you’ll have some idea about how to do it yourself (provided that you are willing to listen to someone slightly too young to be your son).

  10. things haven’t really changed much at the core from lotus. just lots more tricks these days.
    I use open office on this machine.

  11. Depends what exactly you are trying to do….full financial forecasting (if you could call it that – it implies some kind of insight into the future. If I had a crystal ball, I’d be on a yacht in Monaco right now. Instead, what you are really doing is taking the future value of cash flows etc based on *todays* best estimates of where rates are going to be etc) is best done with excel, as it becomes easy to play with your cash flows and ammend them as necessary whilst using up to date interest rate curves to properly compare to your risk free rates.

  12. There must be a clever student/unemployed graduate knocking around in your part of Portugal.

    Hire him or her for a few days to teach you how to use Excel.

    Trickle down economics in operation and you’ll learn quickly.

    Plus will add to the gaiety of your local community:

    “Ah, the English Mi’Lord who blogs about finance can’t use Excel. No wonder those English banks did so well….”

  13. Spreadsheet. If you Excel, use it. If you don’t download Open Office.

    If you know exactly what you want I can put together one for you as a ‘thank you’ for your great blog.

  14. Tim

    Excel has plenty of free templates for you to download and fill in that should do
    an alternative is to use some budgeting software such as sage winforcast

    As a non retired accountant I would go the excel route

  15. bet you worked out how to use a calculator without too much trouble? I know loads of accountants who will add up a column of numbers in a spreadsheet using a calculator, without so much as a single blush – so don’t feel bad about being a luddite.

    Speaking as someone who does this for a living – you need an old envelope (the back thereof) to work out the important numbers, and excel if you need to present it to funders; although a selection of generic graphs pinched of the internet should suffice for the latter.

  16. How long would it take you to outline what needs to be in it? If it takes you 30min to describe tables, rows, columns and calculations, that’s pretty cheap. You’ve had offers to build the doc for you, take one up while you go the pen and paper route. Then, at whatever time and pace suits, plug the proper numbers into the spreadsheet and see if you get the same numbers. Good way to learn, no time pressure, and you can check the results.

  17. If you have a Google Account you can access a free Spreadsheet program under Google Docs

    The only function you appear to need is SUM which you write
    = SUM(‘cell ref one end’..’cell ref other end’)

  18. I usually do all this sort of stuff in Mathematica, or else I write some software. Excel is fired up about once every six months.

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